To help improve your running performance there are several best practice training and lifestyle strategies that you adopt.

Some you may already be doing and some not, but consistently adhering to these seven best practices, whether you are a new or an experienced runner creates a solid foundation and adds discipline to your running.

1. Become a complete athlete

(Even Isaac Makwala found time for press-ups at the World Championships)
The change – Add a 30 minutes whole body strength routine to your training plan and perform two to three times per week.
The reason – This can help reduce the risk of injuries and muscle imbalances. Keep you interested in training. Provide a new stimuli for your body to adapt to.
Cautions – Ensure any strength training routine is done with perfect technique and is guided by a professional for the first few sessions to ensure correct form.

2. Increase your training – through milage or time training in a low aerobic state
The change – Run more miles in training or include extra low aerobic work such as cycling, swimming, or low impact movement.
The reason – Increasing your time training will improve your aerobic capacity, which will also help aid speed endurance (a fancy way to say how long you can sustain race pace).
Cautions – Be patient and measured in the increase. Do not make large rapid increases, instead just aim for two or three extra miles per week or 10 to 20 extra minutes, to begin with.

3. Prioritise recovery – Make your easy runs VERY easy

The change – There is no such things too easy for easy runs. Really strive to make these runs add minimal strain on your body. Take an extra 30 seconds to one minute per mile off your current relaxed run pace.
The reason – Taking it easier on your easy runs will allow you to recover better. This will, in turn, allow you to run harder on your high-intensity training days, creating a bigger stimulus which should lead to larger adaptations to your body i.e. increase strength and fitness.
Cautions – Be confident in this practice and do not let the social competitiveness force you to do otherwise.

Further reading on the benefits of recovery runs can be found here.

4. Prioritise recovery again – Sleep more
The change – Get at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
The reason – Sleep is the time when your body can recover optimally. Simple.
Cautions – Heightened attention, better core body temperature regulation, better moods – All positives!

5. Assess your diet, honestly
The change – Review your diet and find areas where you can include more whole foods, nutrient-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds) and cut out processed foods.
The reason – Whole nutrient dense foods can help aid recovery, introduce more fibre to your diet, improve cardiovascular health, protect you from illness, and aid more consistent energy levels.
Cautions – Processed foods can be well marketed, convenient, and us runners can find good excuses to eat them. Be disciplined and opt for the smarter option by planning ahead and carrying a banana, nuts or another fruit snack with you at all times.

6. Embrace a positive attitude
The change – Enjoy the simple act of running, not just its outcomes.
The reason – When we appreciate the bad runs as much as the good ones we instantly increase our satisfaction from running. Having a positive mindset will usually allow you to perform better.
Cautions – Be selective with your competitive attitude, leave it for race day. Ignoring the numbers can sometimes be stressful, so be aware of this and understand, they are not everything in running.

7. Be persistent and consistent
The change – Even if it is a short one, get out and go for that run. Or take 20 minutes out of your day to do some additional activity of any type.
The reason – Adopting running or exercising as a habitual part of your life will have dramatic effects on your fitness and overall health. This process and consistent practice will improve your mental strength, commitment, physical abilities, and most likely love for the sport.
Cautions – Do not ignore the need to rest and recover. Always have at least one rest day per week in your training schedule.

About the Author
Majell Backhausen is one of Australia’s finest elite trail runners. As an international runner, he has enjoyed success on the shorter distance trails right up to the 170km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB).